Nebraska’s Department of Agriculture (NDA) lodged the state’s plan for hemp with the USDA last Friday for review – a significant milestone in the state’s renewed embracing of the crop.
Nebraska has certainly changed its tune on industrial hemp in recent times. Only half an acre of the crop was legally cultivated in the state in 2018, but in late May this year, Governor Pete Ricketts signed a bill into law enabling farmers to grow industrial hemp as an alternative crop and which aligns state law with federal law since changes under the 2018 Farm Bill.
The legislation seeks to promote the expansion of Nebraska’s hemp industry “to the maximum extent permitted by law” and gave NDA authority to regulate the cultivating, harvesting and processing of hemp for research purposes in Nebraska under a licensing agreement until such time the U.S. Department of Agriculture approves its plan.
Even with the new legislation, this year’s hemp season wasn’t anything to get excited about – just 10 grower licenses were granted for research purposes. Apparently, one of the crops grown under license was required to be destroyed due to its THC content being too high.
But Nebraska’s government appears to be quite optimistic about the crop’s future in the state. Under Nebraska’s plan, it’s anticipated 270 cultivator licenses, 30 processor-handler licenses and 15 broker licenses will be issued.
With the plan now lodged, USDA has sixty days from the date of submission to approve it, or provide recommendations for changes. Earlier this month, Governor Ricketts says he expects the USDA to sign off on the plan.
The full text of the Nebraska State Hemp Plan can be viewed here.
Hemp was widely grown in the state prior to prohibition, which occurred in 1927, and at one point it was one of the USA’s top producers. Such was plant’s presence that feral hemp, called ditchweed, could still be easily found decades after prohibition began. According to Wikipedia, a 1987 study noted that 12.4 million cannabis plants were being eradicated in Nebraska annually. That works out to close to 8 plants per Nebraskan (1987 population) per year.
This is particularly interesting in that hemp has continued to thrive in the state over generations, and wild strains successful in Nebraska may be of some value to the commercial sector. They are tried and tested and ready to go so to speak, but the grain, fibre and CBD yields of these well-adapted “ditchweed” strains isn’t clear.